The UConn softball team only had a one run lead Wednesday afternoon going into the top of the seventh, but it felt insurmountable with ace pitcher Jill Stockley on the mound.
Stockley was in rare form in midweek action against Central Connecticut State, only allowing the Blue Devils four hits and no walks or earned runs.
Stockley leads the Huskies in almost every major pitching category including a 2.67 ERA that ranks seventh in the American in that category, along with strikeouts and innings pitched.
“Jill is steady Eddie, she’s got ice in her veins and just competes every time she’s out there,” UConn head coach Jen McIntyre said. “She threw a great game today, she did a nice job hitting her spots.”
Stockley doesn’t usually go for the strikeout, preferring to spin and place the ball for pop outs or grounders, but her fastball was on point Wednesday as she punched out seven, tied for her season high.
“I was getting a lot of swings and misses, which I don’t really do very often,” Stockley said of her heater. “I was just trying to hit my spots, and it worked for me.”
The other pitch in Stockley’s arsenal is a knee-knocking changeup, which she throws at about two-thirds the speed of her fastball and practices in an unconventional way: she sets up a regular-sized bucket just behind the plate, and tries to throw a strike that lands in the bucket.
In her last three starts, Stockley has settled into her role as a veteran leader on the Huskies. It seemed like nothing could get into her head until Wednesday, when she ran into someone from her past at the plate.
In the top of the fifth, CCSU second baseman Kaitlin Paterson came up to the plate, and McIntyre immediately went out to talk to Stockley and calm her nerves.
Paterson had already smacked the Blue Devils’ only extra-base hit of the day in her last at-bat, but that wasn’t the only reason for the coach’s mound visit.
“[Paterson] is one of my really good friends, and she always goes 3-4 off of me, so I sat in the dugout and kept saying ‘I don’t know what to throw her,’” Stockley said. “So [coach] came out and said “Hey, I know this is your friend, but just attack her and don’t be like ‘oh my god, I don’t want to throw to her.’”
Stockley apparently took McIntyre’s advice to heart, and ended the inning with a strike ‘em out, throw ‘em out double play that all but squashed CCSU’s hopes for an upset.
Luke Swanson is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.